Thomas Lurz chugged to another gold medal in open water, the sea no match for the old man and his powerful strokes, the Rio Olympics still very much in the realm of possibility.
The 33-year-old Lurz led Germany to a dominating victory in the 5-kilometer team competition Thursday, more than a minute ahead of the next team to finish. He remains a formidable force in this bruising sport, with the next Olympics just three years away.
"I haven’t thought of Rio that much," Lurz said. "I have to take care what I’m going to do after swimming. We will see what’s going to happen these next few years. But I still feel good. As it stands now, I see no reason to stop. This is a great accomplishment."
Lurz knows there will come a time when he has to get on with life after swimming. Yet the way things are going, he sees no need to trade his swimsuit for a business suit.
The German team, which also included Christian Reichert and Isabelle Harle, completed two laps around the Barcelona harbor course in 52 minutes, 54.9 seconds. They went out fourth in the staggered start, 4 minutes behind Russia in the leadoff spot, but passed the Russians as well as New Zealand and Italy to touch ahead of everybody, giving Lurz his sixth career gold at worlds.
Silver medalist Greece wasn’t even close, taking second in 54:03.3.
Lurz won his third medal of these championships and first gold. If he needs any addition motivation for Rio, he has yet to win an Olympic gold, settling for bronze in Beijing and a silver in London.
"It’s great to win a race I’ve never won before," Lurz said. "Now this is something I have done in my career. I’m very proud of it."
Spyridon Gianniotis, Antonios Fokaidis and Kalliopi Araouzou took the silver, while the bronze went to the Brazilian team of Poliana Okimoto, Allan Do Carmo and Samuel De Bona.
Gianniotis added to his gold in 10K, while Okimoto became a three-time medalist at these world championships. She won an individual gold in the 10K and a silver in the 5K.
"We went fast," Gianniotis said. "We trained a lot for this team event. We had the same coach and it was very good for our training. We swam for our country with all the passion."
The United States won the inaugural team event at the 2011 worlds in Shanghai, but only managed a sixth-place showing this time, less than a half-second out of a bronze.
Andrew Gemmell, joined on the American team by Sean Ryan and 5K gold medalist Haley Anderson, said his trio actually swam a better race than it did while winning two years ago.
But other countries, especially the Europeans, have devoted more training to the team concept, which relies on drafting and swapping out the lead spot while using at least one woman among the three competitors (Hungary, in fact, went with two females and finished ninth out of 22 teams).
"That race was much deeper and much faster than it was in 2011," Gemmell said. "The other teams have a lot more experience and are putting a lot more emphasis on it. That’s something we can keep improving on.
POOL EVENTS PREVIEW
On Sunday the pool swimming events get started. Even without Michael Phelps, the U.S. is expected to dominate with a star-studded team led by Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte.
They arrived in Barcelona on Wednesday and held their first practice at the Palau Sant Jordi.